American fiction, Bookseller, Charles Bukowski, Cormac McCarthy, Crime Fiction, David Mitchell, DHH Literary Agency, Eleanor Catton, Eva Dolan, Fantasy, Goldsboro Books, Harry Illingworth, Joe Abercrombie, Literary Agent, Literary Fiction, Station Eleven, the luminaries
Now I am not a literary agent myself yet, I do not have my own list. I am David Headley’s assistant at the agency and I help him editorially and indeed in all that I can with the authors he already represents, and those that we take on along the way. I also run our agency blog, publicise our authors on social media and generally help the other agents in the same way. It’s a very busy job, and as you can imagine I spend a large portion of my time with my head in a book or kindle. A lot of the material is that which I would read anyway but some isn’t, and that is part of the challenge; it certainly broadens my reading horizons. Over the last week we have submitted a few exciting manuscripts so fingers are firmly crossed in anticipation of good news for them. They are great books that deserve to find the right home. What makes this part of the process all the more fun is the fact that our team all get on so well and everything is a joint effort. No one is out on a limb, someone will always help and so submission time can be fun as well as terrifying. This is one of the most thrilling parts of the job anyway; realising that the novel you have been working for God knows how long is ready to be released into the wild. You write a synopsis and what you hope is a killer pitch, and then watch it fly.
What I do know is that I have begun the journey towards discovering my first client, and that I hope I am not very far away from building a list. This is the driving force behind all that I do; it makes me want to learn and to be successful. But not only for myself, but for whichever author I can help to achieve their own dreams. I cannot wait to discover an author whose work I fall in love with, who I build a relationship with, and eventually sell on to whatever publisher it may be. That is the dream anyway, I haven’t found that author yet and besides, I can’t kid myself, I have a lot to learn. I’m sure that will never stop being the case.
With DHH Literary Agency and Goldsboro Books being connected, working at Goldsboro is the perfect complement to being involved in the agency. Goldsboro Books is a thriving bookshop in a time of trouble for many others. It is a place where every day I see what is popular with our customers. Indeed it is a place where I can sell the books that I have already read and loved and pass them onto the next reader. Seeing what the public relates to through Goldsboro helps me in every stage when I come to read a submission for the agency for example, or read a recently delivered manuscript from an existing client. I can cast a clinical eye over the words in front of me and truly think about it from two perspectives, that of an agent and that of a bookseller. It isn’t only that though, Goldsboro is a place where you are right in the heart of the publishing industry. I meet new people every day whether they are publicists, editors or authors that I have admired for years (Anthony Horowitz is signing upstairs as I type). Again, building these kind of contacts is invaluable and is only going to help when the time comes to send out that first solo submission.
So, a bit about my taste. It is varied. I am a huge fan of fantasy, I think there is some outstanding fantasy being published at the moment and I devour as much as I can. I love the darker and edgier side of it, Joe Abercrombie being my top dog, and this year I fell in love with The Incorruptibles and Smiler’s Fair (which we had as a book of the month at Goldsboro). Yet I am also an avid reader of general/literary fiction (from the beginning I loved The Luminaries and wanted it win last year’s Booker prize-I somewhat ignored the prize this year with the lack of David Mitchell on the shortlist). Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven and The Bone Clocks have been real highlights for me this year as I find them genre bending and beautifully written stories – post-apocalyptic and fantastical, but literary genius. I think American fiction is wonderful; Charles Bukowski and Cormac McCarthy are two of my all-time favourite authors. US highlights this year for me have been The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld and Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson – both having echoes of Cormac McCarthy, and both outstanding debuts. Then I will always enjoy a great crime novel, A Pleasure and A Calling being my number one in this genre this year with its unforgettable voice, and Eva Dolan’s work has fast become one of my top crime series. The only genre I somewhat hesitate over is historical fiction, it just doesn’t do it for me in the same way as these others but you can always question what actually constitutes historical fiction nowadays as I’ll happily read something set in the past, especially if it has a twist to it.
To be honest, I’m just looking for a fantastic story, beautifully written and wrought with the vital ingredients of tension, comedy and wisdom. I am a complete sucker for quirky, stylish, original writing and a well written unreliable narrator for me is one of the most exciting things I can read. Vivid characters that both disgust and endear me I love in equal measure and I love both lyrical prose and sharp sentences (Bukowski…) Everything though, comes back to the writing, how the words transfer from the page to your brain, and the reaction that then takes place. I sometimes read books where I have to take breaks between chapters just to allow the words to sink in – that’s when I know I’m onto a good one. Anyway, I could go on because as you can see, I’m not fussy…
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